Discounts on hardware drags down November numbers

The release of high-profile titles like “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3,” “Elder Skrolls V: Skyrim” and “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception” boosted videogame sales in November by 15%, according to NPD Group, but while hardware also moved out of stores, discounting caused overall revenue to come in flat at around $3 billion for the month.

An uptick in sales was expected, with Activision’s juggernaut “Call of Duty” franchise once again breaking sales records upon its launch.

But much hype for other titles like Sony’s third “Uncharted” and WB’s Batman title “Arkham City” also paid off.

Software sales rose to nearly $1.7 billion, up from nearly $1.5 billion a year ago, with “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3,” Bethesda’s “Elder Skrolls V,” Electronic Arts’ “Battlefield 3,” Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed: Revelations,” and “Just Dance” ranking among the top five top sellers across all platforms. THQ’s “Saint’s Row: The Third,” “Uncharted 3″ and Nintendo’s “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword III” were also in the top 10 but sales figures were lower for the latter two because they were exclusive titles for the PlayStation 3 and Wii consoles, respectively.

“This November marks the best November on record for sales of new physical content,” said NPD analyst Anita Frazier, topping Nov. 2008.

NPD no longer breaks down specific sales figures for individual titles.

But it said “Modern Warfare 3’s” launch bested last year’s “Call of Duty: Black Ops” by 7%. And in one month, “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” is just about half a million units shy of matching “Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” in lifetime sales, with its launch beating the previous installment five-fold in its first month. EA’s “Battlefield 3″ is also the best-selling title for the franchise, while “Batman: Arkham City” sold well in month two and is now just shy of “Batman: Arkham Asylum’s” lifetime unit sales, NPD said.

Ubisoft was the only publisher with two games in NPD’s top five list of best-selling games with “Assassin’s Creed” and “Just Dance 3.”

“Assassin’s Creed: Revelations'” bow was 10% higher than last year’s “Brotherhood,” also out in November.

And the “Just Dance” franchise has produced the No. 1 Wii game for the past 13 months. Ubisoft controls 72% of the dance video game sector.

For hardware, “a decline in average retail price in all categories with the exception of portable hardware resulted in flat dollar sales even though unit sales grew for console hardware, as well as console, portable, and PC software,” said NPD’s Anita Frazier.

Overall hardware sales were off 9% to $982 million over last year.

November was the fourth consecutive month in which Microsoft’s Xbox 360 has been the top selling hardware system.

“The gap between 360 sales and sales of the next best selling platform was the largest we’ve seen since December 2008 when the Nintendo DS was the top selling system,” Frazier said.

Accessory sales fell 34% to $274 million although much of the decline was due to Microsoft bowing the Kinect last year.

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